A Butchers Blog

Each month I will be bringing you all the latest news along with excellent in-season recipes for you to enjoy.

Edge & Sons on Radio 4

John Edge


Ernest W. Edge & Son are very proud to representing butchers on Wednesdays You and Yours programme on bbc Radio 4! Tune In!

You & Yours investigation reveals how an unscrupulous builder made off with tens of thousands of pounds of his customers' money, leaving jobs incomplete. One family's home was left in such a poor state, they couldn't live in it. Trading standards officers are now looking into the case, in which the builder took payments up-front, started jobs, but then left them unfinished.

For decades, the number of local butcher's shops on our high streets has been declining. Forty years ago there were more than 25,000, but by 1995 that had dropped by more than half and numbers have continued to fall. Many have struggled with competition from the supermarkets, others closed when the owners retired. But then last year was there was small increase in the number of independent high street butchers in the UK. We examine the reasons for the revival and ask how small local shops can compete.

The communications regulator Ofcom is investigating a mobile phone app which allows users to send pre-recorded ranting messages to their friends as a joke. Depending on the message chosen, the recipient is accused of theft, criminal damage or stalking. They are meant to be funny and the app's developers say that more than two hundred million of the messages have been sent. You & Yours has spoken to people who found them scary, aggressive and unpleasant.

April 2015 - John Edge Tribute

John Edge

It is with great sadness that this month's blog will be in memory of my father John Edge who passed away on the 18th February after a long battle with cancer.

He was born on the 20th October 1940 during the Second World War and lived in very cramped accommodation above the shop in our current location. My Grandfather Ernie, founder of our family business then left to go to War leaving my Grandmother, Florrie, to run the business with no previous experience of butchery whilst looking after a newborn baby. My father lay in a drawer at the side of the shop till while she served the customers.

In 1955 aged 15, Dad joined the family business. He was to put 50 years of his life into the shop, working hard and modernising as he went. Over his lifetime in the shop he and my Grandfather saw the emergence of the supermarkets and the domestic freezer. The freezer revolutionised how people shopped like the supermarket did but the supermarkets were to prove a huge threat to small independent shops all over the country. At one stage there used to be 12 butchers shops between our shop and The Cross in town. Now we are the only one.

My father's way to compete with the supermarkets was to provide better quality, provenance and better service. This was the way we remained in business over some very difficult trading years. He put all of himself into the shop on a daily basis. He had a great sense of humour and always had a laugh and a joke with customers. In addition, he had a very caring side which saw customers confide in him with their ups and downs in their own lives.

His funeral on the 10th March was attended by nearly 400 people which showed how fondly he was thought of by his friends, family, customers and the whole local community. I had the pleasure of working alongside him for 12 years before he retired which will always live with me. He will be hugely missed and I am told will be held in great affection for many years to come by the people of Handbridge and Chester.

December 2014 - Top Tips for a Top Turkey

First things first, how many people are you catering for and how big does your turkey need to be?

Size � Allow 1Ib/454g per adult when deciding how big a whole turkey to buy.

Cook your turkey from room temperature. Removal from your fridge an hour before cooking will achieve this. Be sure to remove any giblets from the cavity of the bird before placing in the oven. Prior to cooking it is good to bear in mind two important rules.

  1. Never overcook your turkey;
  2. Never undercook your turkey.

I know that this states the obvious but a successful roast turkey dinner depends on this. No pressure then!

Turkey is very lean meat and therefore can go very dry when overcooked. It really is essential to get your cooking times organised so that you know approximately when you need to be removing the turkey from the oven. Make sure that your bird is accurately weighed prior to cooking and if you stuff the bird please make sure to allow extra cooking time.

The British turkey information service says that if the turkey is over 4kg/9Ib calculate 20mins per kg plus 90mins. Therefore a 10Ib/4.540kg turkey should take 3 hours at 180C Under 4kg/9Ib is 20mins per kg plus 70mins.

A meat thermometer is a great tool to ensure a perfect turkey every time. You need to aim for a core temperature of 75C.

Pop up turkey timers are great as they provide reassurance that the bird is properly cooked. The timer is pushed into the deepest part of the breast meat and will pop up at exactly 75C which is the correct temperature to be reached. You will need to keep checking to see when this occurs around the time its due to be cooked. At this point, the bird needs to be removed from the oven to rest for approximately 25mins. This will help to redistribute the juices prior to carving.

If you do not have either the thermometer or timer, then push a fork into the deepest part of the leg. If the juices run clear, then the turkey is cooked. If not, give another 10mins and then try again.

To add more moisture to the breast, butter can be rubbed into the breast meat under the skin and then all over the legs. Season the bird and then cover the breast with tin foil while leaving the legs to open roast. The legs are not as tender as the breast meat and therefore need more exposure to the heat so that the legs and breast are cooked at the same time. Otherwise the breast can become overcooked whilst the legs need additional cooking time (the legs can always be foiled later if necessary).

Note: The turkey is the main course; prepare all of the other foods around the turkey, not the other way around.


This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout December 2014

November 2014 - Taking the Brisket!

With the cold, dark evenings now upon us, comfort food pushes its way to the front of the agenda. There are few cuts of meat more delicious and comforting than a brisket of beef, slowly cooked and with all the trimmings.

Fact: The name Brisket derives from the word "brusket" which comes from Old Norse Brjosk, meaning cartilage. As cattle do not have collar bones this muscle supports about 60% of the body weight of the animal. This may explain the Nordic name.

Brisket of beef comes from the front end of the animal. It is probably easiest to imagine it as the chest of the animal. As this muscle does so much work it needs a significant amount of connective tissue and as a result needs long and slow cooking to make it tender. Generally in meat, the more work a muscle does, the more flavour it has, resulting in briskets case as a taste sensation.

In addition to this it is great value and can be slowly roasted, casseroled or pot roasted. Brisket is certainly a great joint for all the family and ideal for entertaining and therefore should not be overlooked for dinner parties. Be the first of your friends to try this for a dinner party. It could be a talking point and a turning point!

This month's recipe is for Brisket of Beef.

Beef Brisket � Serves 8


1.3kg/3Ib lean brisket joint | Salt and pepper | 2tbsp olive oil | 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped | 2 crushed garlic cloves | 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes | 100ml prepared barbecue sauce | 2tbsp runny honey | 4tbsp Worcestershire sauce | 300ml/half pint beef stock | 2tsp smoked paprika powder


  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 2/160C
  2. Heat half the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Place the joint on a chopping board and season with salt and pepper all over. Brown the joint on all sides and transfer to a large ovenproof dish.
  3. Add the remaining oil and cook the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until soft. Transfer to the casserole dish with the joint.
  4. Add the tomatoes, barbecue sauce, honey, Worcestershire sauce, stock and paprika. Bring to the boil, cover and slow roast in the oven for 3-3 half hours until the beef is tender.
  5. Transfer the beef to a clean chopping board and slice your brisket nice and thinly.

Serve with creamy mash and vegetables.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout November 2014

October 2014 - Pleasant Pheasant!

The first of October sees the beginning of the game season for pheasants. This Season continues until the last day of January and gives continuous opportunity for some very flavoursome meat at very good value.

Pheasant contains a high level of iron, protein, Vitamin B6 and selenium which helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

It is fair to say that game is not for everyone and pheasant particularly may not be everyones cup of tea but if it is cooked correctly then this bird can provide some very tasty and wholesome meals for all the family.

Note: However you choose to cook your pheasant it is paramount not to overcook it. The meat is always very lean and as such has no give. It will go dry and tough if overcooked.

Pheasant is very versatile and can be delicious when roasted, casseroled and even stir-fried. Pheasant breasts are available as well as whole birds and they are superb stuffed, wrapped in bacon and roasted, then served with a creamy sauce.

Stir-fried pheasant breast is a very quick easy meal. Simply slice the breast into strips and make sure not to cook for longer than about 4 minutes on full power. Ideally you would serve the pheasant slightly pink so that it stays succulent and juicy. It can be served with traditional accompaniments or it can be spiced up.

This month's recipe is for traditional roasted pheasant. It is rather nice to keep things really simple and just enjoy the natural taste of the bird. This is my favourite way to enjoy pheasant.

Traditional Roasted Pheasant

  1. Generously rub some butter into the legs and breasts.
  2. Place a clove of garlic into the cavity of the bird.
  3. Put a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary onto the breasts of the bird.
  4. Wrap approximately 3 slices of streaky bacon around the pheasant and herbs to protect the meat from the heat of the oven.
  5. Roast in a preheated oven at 180C or gas mark 5 for 35-45mins.
  6. Rest your pheasant for 10 minutes before serving.

This very simple roast is delicious served with roasted parsnips, wilted spinach and a red wine gravy. I also love a little redcurrant jelly on the side. It is superb with all game.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout October 2014

September 2014 - David and Goliath!

Why should the general public use a high street butcher? There are many reasons.

  • Provenance is a very big one. Traceability from farm to fork. Meat sourced locally from the surrounding countryside supporting local farmers and the local rural economy. Millions of tonnes of supermarket meat is sourced from abroad every year with no benefit to our rural communities whatsoever.

  • Quality. Does anyone genuinely think that supermarket meat is better than a high street butchers? I would be surprised. For example, the twenty-eight day aged beef that I sell as standard rather than a special is not even available in supermarkets. Space does not allow me to give a hundred other examples in this Blog.

  • Freshness. Meat prepared freshly on the day by staff you know and trust, who know you. As opposed to meat prepared in a factory, days earlier then pumped full of water and preservatives. Then dispatched all around the country around various stores to be opened by shop assistants rather than butchers and then finally placed on a shelf with a ten day shelf life?

  • Service. I would like to think that any traditional butcher would know more about their products than a shop assistant. A butcher could recommend the correct cut of meat for a particular recipe and advise on cooking times.

  • Quantity. Being able to buy the quantity you want rather than what is pre-packed and on the shelf. Many of my customers cater just for themselves and I am delighted to sell as little as an individual sausage, slice of bacon, or even one egg. This is not possible to buy in any supermarket.

  • Price. Now this is where I get on my soap box! How cheap are supermarkets? Not very. The illusion is cheap but the reality is very different. Years ago they were cheap and had competition on the high street from butchers but in the last thirty years butchers shops have shut in their hundreds. According to the red meat industry forum only between 12-15% of Beef, Lamb and Pork in the UK is sold through traditional butchers and approximately 70% of all meat sales including Chicken are made in supermarkets. Supermarkets do have some expenses that the high street butcher doesn't . Firstly they employ agents to source their meat for them. Transport costs delivering right across the country. Processing and packaging costs and nationwide advertising costs. My local abattoir is eight miles away which is not only cheaper on fuel but is far better for the animal (and a smaller carbon footprint).

    Price matching or price fixing? All the supermarkets openly check each others prices on a daily basis. This would be fine if it was all to give the customers a better deal but I know from wholesale prices that on a very regular basis they can charge far less than they actually do but all price match at the same high price. It seems to me that the main supermarkets compete with each other as little as they can get away with. What is amusing for me is that Aldi and Lidl don't seem to have read the same script and as a result are smashing the dominance of "the Big Four".

  • Convenience. Supermarkets win hands down. Free parking and convenience to shop 24/7. This is unfortunately what it all boils down to!

    Please try to support all your local shops.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout September 2014

August 2014 - Wanted: Spring Chickens!

In 1937 when my Grandfather first started trading as a high street butcher in Handbridge, there were 12 butchers shops located between ourselves and the Cross. Obviously, this was pre war and there was no such thing as a supermarket. Fast forward to 2014 and we are the only surviving shop of those 13. In addition to that other butchers took over failing or retiring businesses between the Cross and ourselves and also closed.

Statistically the decline of the high street butcher over this long period nationwide is probably quite similar to this.

Twenty two years ago just prior to joining my family business I asked my father whether there was a future in our business for me and butchery in general on the high street. He assured me that there was and on that basis I began my training. Now in 2014, I am glad to say that he was right, however a new threat has emerged to the high street butcher - Age. The average age of a high street butcher in the UK is over 50. For the last 3 decades supermarkets have decimated butchers nationwide.

Many butchers that closed were reaching retirement age and did not want to spend large amounts of money on shop refits to try and compete with the supermarkets with retirement looming. Others may have found that trade was so poor that reinvestment was not an option. Either way butchers skills are being lost and a whole generation of school leavers have never even considered butchery as a career. Far more glamorous industries to young people have lured them away from gaining a trade. Once someone has learnt their trade I believe that this pretty much secures a job for life far more than you could find in most industries today. Over the next 10 years or so I would expect there to be less butchers than now, largely due to retirement and lack of new blood coming into the industry. However I think that will create opportunities for anyone considering a career in butchery.

There will always be a market for quality and anyone joining the industry with that ethos will benefit from reduced independent competition.

As I write this blog Holland V Argentina is just about to kick off in the World Cup. On this note did you know that Sheffield Wednesday got its name from originally being a team of local traders including butchers who played after their traditional half day closing on a Wednesday afternoon.

This months recipe is for a very traditional cut of pork which is very under-rated as far as I am concerned. A fabulous Roast Belly of Pork with fresh Thyme.

Roast Belly of Pork with fresh Thyme - Serves 8


Belly of Pork - thick end on the bone approximately 6 ribs scored well | Fresh Thyme leaves | Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Season your pork well with salt and pepper and push your thyme well into the scored crackling.
  2. Roast in a very hot oven at 220C/Gas Mark 7 for 30 minutes to really blast the crackling.
  3. Then turn your oven down to 180C/Gas Mark 4 for approximately another hour.
  4. Then push a skewer into the thickest part of the meat. If the juices run clear then the pork is cooked. Return to the oven for longer if necessary.
  5. To serve remove the crackling in a sheet. Slice the pork into thick slices and serve with a piece of crackling, apple sauce, mashed potato and savoy cabbage. Superb!

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout August 2014

July 2014 - Meat to go

On a regular basis the media reminds me of the vast distances that meat can travel to get from field to plate. Supermarket chicken from Brazil and Thailand, Parma Ham from Italy, Chorizo from Spain and Guinea Fowl from France are but a few. We of course source our meat locally from Cheshire and Welsh farms but it gave me the idea to make this months blog about how far Edges meat has travelled from our shop to various parts of the world with our customers.

During my 21 years working at the shop the following travel stories stick in my mind.

The first I recall was about 20 years ago and the customer, the boss of a large business on the Wrexham Industrial Estate, had a particular penchant for our pork and tomato sausages. He was Swedish and each time he had time off to go home to his family in Sweden, he used to arrange to take 10Ib of our sausages on the plane with him. The last time we saw him he had been transferred to run a plant in Argentina and arranged to take 20Ib with him!

Continuing with the sausage theme, in 1997 my brother was working in Hong Kong and arranged to have a "bangers and mash party" for all his expatriate friends to coincide with the last night of the proms as Hong Kong was formally handed back to the Chinese. My father realising both the significance of this moment in history and the chance of a holiday and great party duly offered to deliver the sausages personally, bless him!

Nearer home we even provided a full Christmas Turkey dinner to Syria, in happier times, to a customer who had moved out there with work. Bacon, sausages, a ham joint and Turkey which apparently went down very well and made Christmas abroad a little bit more bearable for someone missing home.

Generally the meat we prepare for customers to take on holiday is to places like France and Spain. Although we once sent a large order of bacon and sausages to Munich, to a customer who had moved out there and did not care for the local produce.

One of our customers currently works in West Africa and approximately every 6 weeks returns to the UK and restocks with a large meat order to take back with him. Available locally to him is a selection of "bush meat" which could turn out to be monkey or anything else that happens to wander across a hunters path! As a result, not surprisingly, he takes his meat with him!

Of course, if you are planning on transporting meat abroad it is worth checking with your airline or it could potentially be seized at customs.

Next month I will be including a recipe to get your taste buds going.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout July 2014

June 2014 - An Offal lot to talk about!

The Oxford Dictionary definition of Offal is "the internal organs of an animal used as food". The offal cuts are as follows: head, ear, tongue, cheek, brains, sweetbreads, lights (lungs), oxtail, fries, trotters, heart, kidneys, liver, tripe and giblets. For the purpose of this blog, space prevents me from going into anything other than general basic facts.

In my experience offal contains the most controversial set of cuts in butchery. The "marmite of meat" - you love it or you hate it. For me if I am honest, it is not my favourite. I love the taste of kidney in a steak and kidney pie but I dislike the texture of the kidney itself. One essential of offal though is that it has to be ultra fresh and this is where being able to source five days a week comes in handy.

Generally I only sell Lambs liver, Lambs hearts, Lambs kidneys, Calves liver, Pigs kidney and Oxtail. With all the cuts available this is not much of a selection but it seems more than enough to cater for the current demand I am seeing in the shop despite the fact that Offal is currently meant to be quite trendy.

New interest in Pigs cheek and Ox's cheek generated by culinary reviews and restaurant menus has encouraged huge price hikes in these previously forgotten cuts. When I have sourced specifically for individual customers, I have been amazed by wholesale prices and even sold at cost price as I was too embarrassed to add my margin. However, these are relatively rare orders and Lambs kidneys, Lambs liver and Calves liver remain my best selling lines.

Lambs liver - the facts

Lambs liver is low in Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin B6, Pantothenic acid, Phosphorus, and Manganese, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper and Selenium. The negative side is it is high in cholesterol.

Lamb's Liver Stroganoff - Serves 4


1Ib Lamb's liver cut into thin strips | 10oz button mushrooms sliced | 1 green pepper sliced (optional) | 1oz butter | Drizzle of olive oil | 1 sliced onion | 3 tbsp brandy | 6oz soured cream | Nutmeg, Paprika - 1 tsp and Salt & pepper


  1. Fry mushrooms and onions (pepper if used) until tender and keep hot on separate plate.
  2. Fry Lambs liver quickly until just cooked 3-4mins at most, add brandy, cream, nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Stir well until creamy mixture hot, add precooked mushroom/veg mix.
  4. Bring to simmer, check it is heated through.
  5. Serve with fresh chopped parsley and boiled rice.

For those not keen on offal, thin strips of rump/fillet steak or strips of pork tenderloin could be substituted for the liver.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout June 2014

May 2014 - Lamb it is!

Over the last couple of months I have written my blogs on various subjects and omitted to accompany them with a recipe. It has been pointed out to me that a recipe always goes down well and indeed sometimes is the first thing that the reader looks for, hence that has been my priority this month.

As I write this article Easter is yet to arrive and my preparations at work are largely focused on lamb. In years gone by Easter was a mini Christmas and turkey was the preferred meat. This year as in recent years Easter is all about lamb.

When serving a roast lamb dinner the cut of choice nearly always is shoulder or leg and occasionally a rack of lamb. Completely overlooked and definitely underrated is a boneless double loin of lamb stuffed. This is basically a boneless double sirloin steak joint of lamb. Being sirloin steak the quality is superb and once boned it is extremely easy to stuff and carve. When a double loin of lamb is boned a very convenient pocket is created after the spinal bones are removed. When a line of stuffing is placed along this seam and the "wings" are folded in a lovely joint is created. When carved the stuffing is beautifully framed by the lamb which completely surrounds it. It looks very impressive on the plate and takes minutes to prepare. With such a quality piece of meat it is also very quick to cook taking only approximately 20mins a pound to roast.

Apricot and Pistachio Stuffed Loin of Lamb - Serves 6


20 grams unsalted butter | 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped | 130 grams ready-to-eat dried apricots, thinly sliced | 70 grams shelled raw pistachios, finely chopped | Finely grated zest of 1 lemon | Sea salt and black pepper | 70mls dry white wine | 1.2 kilos/ 2�Ib Double Boneless Loin of Lamb


  1. You can stuff the loins in advance. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and fry for several minutes until softened and lightly coloured, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots and pistachios, lemon zest and some seasoning and fry for a couple of minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Now add the wine and cook until absorbed, then continue to cook for a couple more minutes until nicely softened. Transfer the stuffing to a bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Open up the double loin and stuff the centre pocket. Then fold the wings back to the middle to cover your stuffing. Then tie with string at regular intervals to hold tight.
  3. Heat the oven to 210�C (190�C Fan) gas mark 7. Place a medium sized frying pan with a heatproof handle or a roasting dish over a medium-high heat. Pour a little oil into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together and lightly coat the lamb, season and colour (don't worry about the ends), then roast for approximately 45-55 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a warm plate to rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with the gravy.


This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout May 2014

April 2014 - The Customer is Always Right

On the 23rd February an article in the Daily Mail caught my eye. It was titled "Market Butcher forced to stop displaying meat and game because 'townies' object: family firm targeted with anonymous hate mail because of carcasses hanging in the window". This referred to market butchers "JBS Family Butchers" in Sudbury, Suffolk. For those who did not see this article and the photos accompanying it I would describe the "display" as looking more like a large selection of road kill than a traditional high street butchers shop. Game birds hung in the feather and rabbits, deer and hares hung in their fur. "Townies" and parents alike objected. To add further insult to already injured parties, the odd pigs head and deer head was thrown into the equation.

As a butcher some may expect me to be of the opinion that if the "townies" don�t like it, they can lump it, but personally I believe that the above mentioned display is not only insensitive to children and vegetarians but amounts to career suicide. The point of a nice window display is to entice customers in, not to frighten them away.

As a family business that has been trading since 1937 we have constantly had to move with the times. In 2001 our shop had a complete refit. Until this point we had stainless steel display rails hanging from the ceiling. On our display rails hung legs and shoulders of lamb, sausages from hooks and the occasional leg of pork. Although it was prior to 2001 we still never contemplated displaying any birds in feather or animals in fur. This was purely from a business perspective. If you alienate even 1% of your customer base and lose their business that amounts to thousands of pounds in a trading year.

When our refit took place we knew that the current trend was towards not associating a pig with a pork chop. Films like "Babe" did not help. We made a conscious decision to have a mural created from an original photograph of my grandfather on opening day 1937 rather than a bulls head which was traditional at the time. Losing our hanging display was also a planned decision as we thought the writing was on the wall for unrefrigerated meat to be allowed to hang above a refrigerated counter. The legislation I expected has yet to materialise but I am happy that our decision was correct.

The association between animal and meat is still uncomfortable for many people and we prepare lots of oven ready meat for customers who do not like to touch it, but I do not feel it is my responsibility to put my head above the parapet and try to change this.

If JBS Family Butchers in Suffolk leaked this story to the newspapers I suspect they will lose more than they will gain. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity but personally I would be surprised if that is correct in this case.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout April 2014

March 2014 - Choosing the right Beef

This months blog addresses a question often posed in the shop. What do I look for when choosing quality beef? It is important to find a good source/s of high quality local beef by first getting to know farmers in my area and the breeds of beef they breed. When needing to source on a weekly basis as I do it is essential to develop several different relationships with beef farmers because it is very unlikely in Cheshire to find one farmer that can produce a couple of specimen beef cattle every single week of the year for my requirements.

All my beef is aged between 18-30 months when slaughtered. BSE has never been found in beef cattle under 30 months and as such there is much legislation associated with selling beef over that age. There is an argument to say that beef over 30 months may have slightly more flavour but I would argue that the negligible difference can be offset by selecting quality and ageing for 30 days.

To start with I would specifically buy a beef breed as opposed to a dairy breed. For good beef a female animal (heifer) would need to be bred for beef and therefore not have had any offspring which would impact on quality and the male animal would need to have been castrated (bullock). Bull beef does not make very good beef. The meat is full of testosterone and is very lean which makes cooking difficult and it is tacky to the touch even when freshly slaughtered. It also does not age very well. For this reason a bull would normally only go into catering butchery, ready meals, supermarket meat or pet food. Bull beef is very red and is very popular with supermarket chains as it grows quickly and is very lean. It is also cheaper to buy than quality beef cattle.

Next I look for a nice conformation. This means that the animal has a nice shape, typically with plenty of meat around the loin and buttocks and with good solid shoulders. A covering of fat on the carcass is also very important. Even if the fat is not to be eaten, it helps keep the meat juicy and prevents the meat getting too dry during cooking.

Certain beef breeds like Aberdeen Angus have a very good reputation for quality but are quite fat. Todays consumer will not chose meat that is very fat, so the butcher will have to trim the excess fat away which will increase the cost per pound to the consumer. A way round this is to choose a breed such as the Hereford which makes lovely tasting beef and is superb when crossbred with a Limousin or Charolais. Hereford and Limousin cross produces lovely quality marbled meat which is not too fat and provides great value. This makes it a favourite to sell in my shop when a quality heifer is ready for market.

To summarise I would say my perfect beef would be a heifer under 30 months of age with good conformation, a light covering of fat over the carcass, nice marbling of the flesh and from a Hereford Limousin cross.

After 30 days hanging in my fridge prior to sale (dry ageing) I would be happy to recommend this beef to anyone.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout March 2014

February 2014 - Pulled Pork!

It never ceases to amaze me how much power and influence the media have regarding food. Magazine editors, celebrity chefs, columnists, radio and tv shows. It is endless, yet with so many different angles and areas of media they somehow seem to universally agree on what is on trend.

Sometimes a particularly popular and well followed celebrity chef will show a recipe on a cookery programme. I may have missed the programme myself but the next day I will invariably have multiple people asking for a product that may previously not have been that popular ("the Delia effect").

I am glad to say that celebrity chefs have been very beneficial to the high street butcher. Their recipes seem to get more extravagant every year as they bring new ideas from around the world and there is normally a recommendation to ask your local butcher for . . . This may be down to a combination of factors but I think that quality, provenance and being able to ask for the exact amount of meat the recipe requires may be a big factor.

One product that has recently become very popular is a slow cooked shoulder of pork on the bone. Some recipes even call for the entire shoulder to be used and slow cooked for 24 hours. This is apparently superb but you would need plenty of hungry guests to get through a whole shoulder of pork.

Pork represents great value and is a very versatile meat. In times of austerity pork can enable even a family on a strict budget to eat extremely well. Belly pork and shoulder of pork are both the cheapest cuts of pork and the tastiest. These days with selective breeding they are not even necessarily fatty cuts but have superb flavour when cooked nice and slowly.

This months recipe is for pulled pork. This is a way of cooking pork very slowly at low temperatures. This enables the meat to become tender enough to become pulled into individual strips. Using a fork to rake the meat off the bone, like you would crispy duck, is a very effective method.


2kg blade end shoulder of pork on the bone

A recipe I found that really appealed was a homemade BBQ marinade made from whatever you have in your cupboard! E.g. BBQ marinade (such as Jamie Oliver's BBQ Rub), chilli flakes, dark brown sugar, honey, red wine vinegar, chilli oil, salt & pepper.

Mix all of the ingredients together into a consistency that you can smear all over the pork. Remember to make it to taste, so keep tasting along the way.


  1. Smear the marinade (as above) all over the pork.
  2. Place the pork in a roasting tray and wrap the tray in foil.
  3. Put in a preheated oven at 140�C / Gas Mark 1 for 4� hours.
  4. After 4� hours unwrap the foil and put back in the oven for a further 45mins uncovered.
  5. Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Place pork on a chopping board. Put one fork through the pork to hold it firm and use a second fork to pull the pork into thin strips.
  7. Once your pork is shredded, pour over any leftover marinade in your roasting tin over the pork.

For an American twist serve with sweet potato wedges, coleslaw, beans and corn on the cob.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout February 2014

January 2014 - I Spy Pie!

Pies are the original ready meal. Doing a little research I can say that they go back well over 10,000 years and originally the crudely made pastry was a way of keeping the contents fresh. The pastry itself was usually discarded or was not meant to be eaten at all.

There are various suggestions as to where the name pie came from, but two of the most likely appear to originate from the magpie. This bird was the most commonly used ingredient in a medieval English pie and in those days magpies were called pies. The other theory was that the miscellaneous contents of medieval pies related to the magpies penchant for thieving an assortment of objects.

Well the news on the street is that I now sell pies! This is the first time my family business, established in 1937, has ever sold pies. Why now? A combination of factors: pies are very current with the help of celebrities such as Paul Hollywood endorsing them with both book and series, more and more people are asking for them and a gentle nudge from my work colleagues who really believed that they would be popular. I also felt the need to keep my business current and evolving.

Handbridge has a history of selling great pies and it could even be said it was once a mecca for great pies. I started selling pies at the beginning of November and I have rarely had a day when the word Weinholts has not been mentioned since. It is fair to say that the local bakers, Weinholts, which used to trade 100 yards down the street from ourselves sold lovely products. One product that they were particularly well known for was their steak pies. Having consumed hundreds of them personally over the years I can confirm how good they were! It has always been at the back of my mind that I needed to produce a pie of the same quality as sold by Weinholts. No pressure then!

Once I had decided to make pies, I bit the bullet and bought a commercial oven and all the needed utensils and set about trying out some recipes. We put great quality, locally sourced meat in our pies, make our own gravy and cook them in our own oven. It was a very steep learning curve but I am now very happy to sell pies I am truly proud of and I know my work colleagues feel the same.

Unlike many food products you cannot visually look at a pies content prior to purchase. Like a sausage there must be trust in the producer that the contents are what it says on the label. We are all familiar with the horsemeat scandal and the horsemeat found in so many supermarket products. As a small producer it is nice to be able to say that I know my product contains great quality meat because I sourced it, I butchered it and I cooked it myself! Supply chains have so many links in them these days that I believe their credibility is in question.

Fans of our new pies tell us that they are far superior to supermarket bought pies. Thank goodness for that because the day my products cannot compete in quality with supermarkets is the day I turn the key in the shop door and close down.

For now however, the pie is the new cupcake and I am excited to see where this new addition to our range takes us.

Today I have found a pie recipe with beef and stilton which is not currently sold in the shop, however watch this space because it is lovely and could make an appearance at some stage.


For the Pastry:

500g/1Ib bag of plain flour | 250g/8oz packed butter - diced | 1 egg beaten plus 1 extra egg to glaze | 70-100ml of water | salt and ground black pepper

For the filling:

2tbsp sunflower oil | 1kg/2Ib braising steak cut into large chunks | 4 carrots peeled and cut into large chunks | 1 large onion roughly chopped | 1 clove of garlic | Small pinch of chilli flakes | 4tbsp flour | A big splash balsamic vinegar | 1 bottle full bodied red wine | 1 bouquet garni | 150g/5oz stilton cheese crumbled


Pastry: Tip the flour, butter, a pinch of salt and some pepper into a blender and pulse until the mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs. Pour in the egg and water and pulse again until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins before using. Preheat the oven to 160�c/325�F/Gas 3.

Filling: Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish until smoking, add half the beef and leave it to brown for about five minutes (don't be tempted to prod it, serve it, or lift it up). Stir once and continue to brown the meat, then remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon and repeat with the second batch of beef. Once the second batch of beef has been removed, add the carrots, onion, garlic and chilli to the pan and cook for 8-10mins until the vegetables are starting to soften. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 mins until the flour begins to brown. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 mins, then stir in the red wine. Tip the beef and any juices back into the pan and season generously with salt and a little pepper. Bring to the boil, add the bouquet garni, cover and place in the oven for about 2 hours until the meat is very tender, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Turn the oven up to 220�C/425�F/Gas 7 and heat a baking tray while you roll out the pastry. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 3mm/eighth of an inch and cut our pieces to fit 8 individual pie tins (or foil trays).

Spoon the cooled filling into the pastry cases and sprinkle on the stilton. Cut out the remaining pastry to make lids for the pies. Wet the pastry edges with a little water and place the lids on top. Seal the edges by pressing together, then trim away any excess pastry. Brush the tops with beaten egg to glaze.

Place the pies on the hot trays and bake for 10 mins, then lower the oven temperature to 180�c/350�F/Gas mark 4 and cook for 30 mins until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 mins. The pies should now turn out of their tins easily and the bottoms should be crisp.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout Janurary 2014

December 2013 - A Spanner in the Works!

What type of meat do you or your family like to eat on Christmas Day? Maybe you are very traditional with a Turkey, Goose or Roast Beef or perhaps a Turkey Butterfly (a boneless double breast of turkey without legs). Some may say that Christmas is not Christmas without a lovely Turkey on Christmas Day. Regardless of this, there never seems to be any great controversy over a gammon joint as a traditional accompaniment to the "bird" on Christmas Day or as a hot accompaniment to cold Turkey on Boxing Day.

This year however I would like to throw a spanner in the works! A choice no less. Everyone will no doubt be familiar with shortback bacon but not everyone will have tried it as a roasting joint. For those who have not, I highly recommend it. Shortback bacon is a cured boneless loin of Pork. If it was beef, we would call it sirloin steak in a joint. In essence it is a prime cut with lots of flavour and an even depth of meat throughout its length for very easy carving and portion control. In addition to its many other plus points it comes rindless and is therefore immediately ready to glaze straight from the oven or pan and is available in smoked or plain.

Gammon, which sits firmly in pole position as the nations favourite and most familiar cut is a joint of cured leg of Pork. This has a very nice flavour and I would not want to be negative about it, but it is a broad piece of meat which makes it too large for a small joint for only a couple of people and it is far harder to carve. For a larger joint it is perfect although as you carve towards the end, it tends to be wide and narrow which is a challenge to all but the best carver or those with a cooked meat slicer. By comparison, the narrow depth of the short back joint makes it exceptionally easy to carve for anyone.

This Christmas months recipe is an Edge family favourite, always sure to feature in my house on Boxing Day.

Smoked Honey Roast Shortback Joint with Madeira - Serves 10


6Ib/2.725kg Smoked Shortback Bacon Joint (diamond scored - please ask your butcher) | Approx 50 cloves | 100ml honey | 100g Demerara sugar | 50ml Madeira wine | 3tbsp soy sauce | 3tbsp English mustard | 3tbsp Worcestershire Sauce


  • Preheat the oven to 170�C/Gas Mark 3.
  • Stud the cloves into the scored fat on top of the joint.
  • Make a tin foil tent over the joint and roast for an hour.
  • In the meantime, heat the honey and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture foams.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the Madeira wine.
  • Leave to cool slightly, then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
  • After the hour, remove the joint from the oven and discard the tinfoil. Then brush the glaze over the joint and bake for a further hour basting frequently with the glaze.
  • When nicely browned remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Happy Christmas

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout December 2013

November 2013 - A Slow Cook!

I wonder how many people reading this article have received a gift unwanted or unused from sometime in the past, which is currently sitting in a cupboard taking up space. In my case, I have something unused but not unwanted. . .a slow cooker!

Sadly like thousands of bread makers, pasta makers and ice cream makers around the country it has remained in my cupboard since the day I received it. I have no excuse other than I just haven't got round to it, for the last four years! When I discussed this little known and not very exciting fact with my work colleagues, it turned out that one of them also had a new but unused slow cooker. It was time to get motivated! So the cooker saw daylight and I started to search for an autumnal comfort food recipe.

Designed for moist-heat cooking, the slow cooker produces steam which condenses on the lid, then returns to the pot, making it ideal for stews, soups and casseroles. They are known to be money saving as well as time saving as they allow the use of cheaper cuts of meat to be used which tenderise during a long and slow cooking process. In addition to this they only use the same amount of electricity as a light bulb.

Looking for something in season for my recipe I settled on venison which is meat from a deer. My venison is sourced from the Eaton Estate and is of the Fallow Deer species. Venison is high in protein, low in fat and has fewer calories than other red meats. It is particularly low in saturated fatty acids and contains higher iron levels than other meats. In short it is very healthy and very tasty too.

Slow Cooked Venison Casserole with Bacon and Tomatoes - Serves 6


300grams Bacon cut in small lardons | 910grams Stewing Venison diced | 1 vegetable stock cube | 1 medium sized turnip cut into chunks | 4 carrots chopped | 1 large can of chopped tomatoes 400g | 1 cup of chopped onion | Salt & pepper to taste


  • Coat the venison with seasoned flour.
  • Fry the bacon and use the bacon fat to brown off the venison.
  • Put the browned off meat in the slow cooker and pour in the stock from 1 vegetable stock cube.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, diced turnips, carrots and bacon. Then stir.
  • Add water if needed to obtain the desired consistency.
  • Cover and cook for 3-5 hours on high heat (about 8-10 hours on low) or until the meat is very tender.

Serve with potatoes, rice or crusty bread.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout November 2013

October 2013 - Are you game for it?

If I had to pick one season of the year which excites my pallet most, it would definitely have to be the Autumn. The choices of Pheasant, Venison, Duck and Rabbit added to the Woodpigeon, Partridge and Grouse already available give endless possibilities for easy meals, family dinners or even a special dinner party.

This is the time of year when the opportunity to feast on something different to the usual suspects of beef, lamb, chicken and pork is too tempting to ignore.

We are all familiar with cooking our staple foods but I am frequently surprised with how intimidated so many people are by cooking game. The conversations I have often takes the line of "I would really like to try...but I have no idea how to cook it". I cannot stress enough how easy game is to cook. If you are not sure, please ask. Other than Goose and Hare that will take far longer to cook, you can cook pretty much everything else within an hour. Most game birds can be cooked whole within 25 minutes to an hour and if breasted off the bone can even be pan fried as quickly as 6 minutes for Wood Pigeon breasts.

I think that game should be eaten as an everyday treat at this time of year and should not be kept back just for a special dinner party. Don't get me wrong it would be an excellent choice for a dinner party but it really deserves to be eaten far more often.

The next point needing to be made is what great value for money game is. Wild shot game is very heavily subsidised by those that shoot. The shooter will be charged anything from �30-�50.00 for every pheasant shot on an exclusive shoot but the consumer can buy an oven ready pheasant for as little as �5.00. Surplus birds on a shoot day, after the guns (shooters) have taken their standard brace per man, go to the game dealers who can afford to both buy and sell these birds on to retailers as the shoot has already received the income necessary by providing sport for the guns.

Once the game season is properly underway, there are many choices to make. On occasion I may have Woodcock, Snipe, Pheasant, Partridge, Rabbit, Mallard duck, Wigeon duck, Pintail duck and Teal duck all in my counter on the same day. This is natures bounty. Some may be horrified by this but for those that enjoy wild food that has not been messed about with and has all the flavour associated with the wild foraging of its food will be well and truly rewarded.

This months recipe is Lazy Duck with Orange.

Lazy Duck with Orange - Serves 2-3


2 tbsp butter | Marjoram | Parsley | Half an orange | 1 Mallard Duck | 2 tbsp thick cut marmalade | Juice of 2 oranges | A little stock or water | Salt and Pepper | A squeeze of lemon


Place half of the butter, a little marjoram and parsley, and half an orange inside the duck. Spread the duck with remaining butter and the marmalade, according to taste. Squeeze the juice of two oranges into the bottom of the pan and add a little water or stock. Cover loosely with foil and place in a moderate oven (180�C, 350�F, Gas Mark 4). Baste frequently, adding more juice, water or stock if necessary, until the bird is cooked but still pink - about 30-45mins.

Ten minutes before the bird is ready, remove the foil, but carry on basting. When the bird is cooked, remove, keep warm, and scrape up all the juices from the pan. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon to taste. Thicken if necessary with a little cornflour mixed with water.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout October 2013

September 2013 - Fillet Steak - What is all the fuss about?

Which part of the animal does it come from? Why is it so expensive, and is it as good as everyone makes out?

For me personally, I would prefer a succulent and juicy rib-eye steak every time but fillet steak definitely does have its place.

In its favour it is very tender and very lean. These are two big positives for many people and to be fair you can prepare some amazing recipes with fillet steak as your main ingredient: Steak Diane, Steak Tartare, Beef Stroganoff and Beef Wellington for a start. The more tender the cut of meat you buy, the more options you have in cooking it and fillet allows you to fry, poach, roast, grill, bake or even eat raw.

Why you may ask? This muscle is so tender because it is a non load supporting muscle on the inside of the animal. Unlike for example, the shin which as a muscle does a lot of work and consequently requires long slow cooking to make it tender. Doing a lot of work as a muscle also gives it lots of flavour. The fillet sadly does not have the flavour of rump, rib-eye or sirloin steak, which is why in a restaurant it is so often offered with a sauce.

Fillet steak is a muscle which lies tight into the spine running along the inside of the sirloin bone from roughly a third of the way down the sirloin all the way through the underside of the hip bone (above which rump steak is found).

The shape of a full fillet of beef starts as a very thin tail in the mid sirloin section. This is too thin in width to cut as a steak but as it is as tender as the thicker end further down the sirloin it lends itself perfectly for stir frying in thin strips. Steak Diane or beef Stroganoff are perfect as you only have to show the steak to the pan and it is cooked.

In a beef carcass weighing 720Ib/326kg there will only be approximately 8Ib/3.6kg of fillet. This rarity gives it financial value as there is not enough to go round and equally it is highly desired due to its tenderness and leanness.

This months recipe is a very easy one suitable either as a starter or can be scaled up for a main course.

Classic Beef Carpaccio


250grams of best quality 28 day aged beef fillet trimmed | 2 tbsp truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil | 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts | 2 tbsp finely chopped chives | Half cup/40 grams of shaved parmesan | Wild rocket leaves and lemon wedges to serve


All the recipes on the internet seem to be geared up for supermarket customers, telling them to wrap their fillet steak in cling film, put it in the freezer, cut it and flatten it ready for use. Better still, go to your local butcher and ask them to slice it very thin on the bacon slicer!

Arrange 4 or 5 slices of beef on each serving plate and drizzle with oil. Season well with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper, then scatter with pine nuts, chives and shaved parmesan. Serve with rocket leaves and lemon wedges.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout September 2013

August 2013 - BBQ time at last!

At the time of writing this blog it is 28�c and Andy Murray has just won Wimbledon, move aside strawberries and cream, lets get the barbie on! When the rare opportunity for a BBQ arises we all snatch at it with both hands. But what to cook...

Of course the staples of any BBQ are the sausages, steaks, burgers and kebabs but there are other things to try.

Quite a recent phenomena is the butterflied leg of lamb, which is a leg of lamb boned and opened up to resemble a butterfly's wings. Today though, I would like to draw attention to the Spatchcock Chicken.

A Spatchcock Chicken is a chicken that has been prepared ready for cooking by either splitting the bird down its backbone or removing the backbone altogether. Then after flattening it out to give an even depth of meat for even cooking, two skewers may be inserted to hold the bird rigid.

This technique will allow for a chicken to cook much faster than a conventional whole chicken and in addition it makes it very easy to apply a marinade prior to cooking.

As everyone will be aware it is very important to make sure that a chicken is thoroughly cooked through, so when barbecuing a Spatchcock Chicken I would advise to start it off in the oven and finish it off on the BBQ. Should you have a BBQ with good temperature control then you may choose to cook on it from start to finish. The lidded BBQ's are probably best for cooking large joints of meat.

The recipe I am using today uses lemon, garlic, rosemary, oregano and chilli flakes with white wine but you can use any of your favourite chicken marinades to apply to a plain Spatchcock Chicken.

Spatchcock Chicken with Chilli, Lemon & Herbs


A 2 kilo Spatchcock Chicken | Zest & juice from 2 Lemons | 3 tbsp Olive Oil | 1 Garlic Clove, crushed | 3 tbsp fresh Rosemary, chopped | 1 tbsp cracked black pepper | 1 tbsp Chilli flakes | Coarse Sea Salt | 1 tbsp dried Oregano | Half a cup of white wine


  1. Place the chicken in a heavy roasting dish.
  2. Rub the chicken with olive oil, pepper, salt, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, chilli flakes and oregano.
  3. Drizzle the lemon juice over the chicken and place in your fridge for at least one hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 200�c / Gas Mark 6
  5. Cover the chicken in foil and roast at the top of the oven for a total of 30 minutes. After 20 minutes add the wine and baste the chicken regularly with the tray juices until removal from the oven. Keep these juices for further use.
  6. Remove Chicken from the oven and transfer to a preheated BBQ for the remaining 15-20 minutes of cooking time.
  7. Baste the chicken with the cooking juices from your roasting tray as needed, to keep it moist. After carefully checking that your chicken is fully cooked through let it rest for 15 minutes, cut into pieces and serve.
  8. Drive your neighbours mad with the amazing smells!!

Note: For those with a temperature thermometer the core temperature of your chicken should be 75�c/165�f or even slightly above when removed from the BBQ.

Top Tip: Try sliced bacon on your BBQ. It really brings out all the flavours of your food.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout August 2013

July 2013 - Anyone for Usugiri beef?

Approximately 15 years ago a Japanese lady entered my shop and asked for a product I had never even heard of: Usugiri beef (pronounced "oosagilli"). Usugiri means 'thin cut' in Japanese. Having only recently arrived from Japan, the lady had been having great problems sourcing her favourite food in Chester.

We quickly realised that the best way to cut the beef was to chill it down until quite firm and then slice it on a bacon slicer almost as thin as paper. The cut required was ribeye of beef. In Japan, meat that is marbled is very highly prized and ribeye is the most marbled cut in a body of beef. This marbling of fat largely melts on cooking leaving the steak very juicy, succulent and full of flavour.

In Japanese cookery, the great delicacy of kobe beef which is beef from the Wagyu breed is extremely marbled. This particular breed has a fat melting point lower than traditional British breeds of beef. Genuine Wagyu beef is not available in the UK but Wagyu 'style' is. There is a very fine line being trodden as regards copyright due to the lack of legal recognition of the Kobe beef trademark in some countries.

The ribeye once sliced was to be marinated prior to cooking in teriyaki sauce. The sauce is made by mixing and heating soy sauce, sake or mirin and sugar or honey. The sauce is boiled and reduced to the desired thickness then used to marinate the meat. Later the sauce is boiled up again and used to broil the meat in seconds much like a fondue.

In all honestly I have not tried this particular technique of cooking but I have many times cooked Usugiri beef in a griddle pan in seconds. I like to warm a ciabatta roll through, butter it and fill it with freshly fried onion and good quality horseradish sauce with the usugiri added at the last second. Delicious and possibly the best steak sandwich in the world!

The particular lady mentioned in this blog became a very good and regular customer of ours and approximately 10 years ago she organised a Japanese banquet of usugiri beef and pork for the Global Head of Toyota who was visiting the Toyota car plant on Deeside. He was so impressed with the meat served that we received a telephone call asking if it was possible for him and his entourage of eight to visit our shop and compliment us in person!

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout July 2013

June 2013 - The Ageing Process!

On a weekly basis I label beef in my counter display as '28 day aged'. Also on a weekly basis I get asked 'What exactly does this mean?' In this article I thought I would address this topic to enlighten those of you who are unfamiliar with this term or its significance.

'Hanging' is the process of dry ageing a carcass. This is a controlled process conducted in a 'coldroom' which is a temperature controlled room between 0°c - 4°c with a good flow of air between the carcasses. This is where all my beef is stored.

The reason for hanging beef is to mature and tenderise the beef. Naturally occurring enzymes in the beef begin to break down the muscles and fibres of the meat during ageing making them more tender. While the beef ages a process of evaporation of the naturally occurring water content in the beef takes place. This concentrates the flavour and makes it much more tender.

A consequence of this is that the outer surfaces of the meat exposed to the air will become very dark and dried. These are a waste product of the process and will be removed and discarded before sale.

The carcass improves greatly after approximately 11 days hanging but this process can continue up to even a couple of months in a controlled environment. Personally, I think that beef reaches perfection at approximately 28 days. Hanging it for much longer can result in the beef tasting gamey or even going off.

I hang my beef for 28 days to allow the beef to be eaten at its best. To compromise on that is to compromise on the quality that you sell and that does not really do justice to the animal or the consumer.

The supermarkets by comparison largely only age a carcass for 2-3days before going on sale. With a supermarket chain who may sell 2,000 cattle a week, to age and refrigerate all of these for a month would require the space of about four football pitches of refrigeration. In addition, factoring in evaporation and the outer surfaces of the meat to be discarded would cost the supermarkets tens of millions of pounds per year. Simply put, they are not prepared to do this.

Instead they sell their meat fresh, turn over their money and sell a product worthy of the effort gone into producing it! Say no more. You can find aged meat in supermarkets at vastly inflated prices but it is not dry aged but aged in vacuum packs to avoid any evaporation or blood loss.

When people say that meat in supermarkets is cheap compared to the high street butcher, it is only fair to say that it is not a like for like comparison. Ultimately you get what you pay for.

This month's recipe is rib-eye steaks with lemongrass and ginger.

Rib-eye Steaks with Lemon Grass and Ginger - Serves 2


2 rib-eye steaks

For the Lemon Grass and Ginger Marinade
2 sticks of fresh Lemon Grass, finely chopped | 1 x 2.5cm / 1 inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped | 30ml / 2tbsp freshly chopped coriander | Salt and freshly milled black pepper | Dash of Tabasco sauce | 30ml / 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce | 20ml / 4tsp sunflower oil

For the Spring Onion and Egg Rice
30ml / 2tsp oil | 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped | 4 spring onions, finely chopped | 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, optional | 175gram / 6oz cooked and cooled long-grain rice | 1 large egg, beaten | 75gram / 3oz peas


  1. To prepare the lemon grass and ginger marinade; in a large shallow non-metallic dish mix together all the ingredients. Place the steaks in the marinade mixture and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours, or if time allows overnight.
  2. Remove the steaks from the marinade (discard the marinade) and cook under a preheated grill according to your preference.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the fried rice; heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the garlic, spring onions and chilli (if used).
  4. Add the rice and toss frequently until heated through. Add the egg and peas; cook, tossing frequently for 3-4 mins or until the egg is cooked. Season.
  5. Pour any meat juices from the frying pan over the beef and serve with the rice.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout June 2013

May 2013 - Sausages!

With all the recent interest in processed foods generated by the horsemeat scandal, I thought I would lift the mystery of what makes a decent sausage.

Rule No.1 you cannot make a great sausage without putting great ingredients into it. In years gone by the sausage was a way of using up leftovers to avoid waste. This still continues today to some degree depending on where you buy your sausages from! Personally, I think that you can tell the quality of your butcher by the sausages he makes. We take great pride in our sausages, putting only the best quality shoulder and bellies of pork into them. We remove all rind, bone and any excess fat, which is why there is no fat left at the bottom of the grill tray. A sausage needs to be juicy and succulent but not fatty.

Today the "Umble Sausage" is a gourmet product and should contain only quality meat that any consumer would recognise as meat. There are endless lists of ingredients that can be used and there is plenty of scope to be innovative. James, our sausage maker enjoys blending complimentary ingredients together when searching for new sausage recipes.

I think the perfect percentage of meat in a sausage is 75-80%, the legal minimum requirement being 65%. If you see someone advertising 90% I would suggest that it is seasoned meat in a skin rather than a sausage. To be juicy and succulent the sausage must contain the right amounts of lean meat and fat, rusk (breadcrumb) and seasoning. If the sausage contains for example, sage, red onion and garlic like one of our sausages then these added ingredients will affect the percentage of meat in the sausage. No doubt everyone will have a style of sausage that they favour.

Last but not least is the sausage skin that the meat is filled into. Today, more and more butchers and all processors are using collagen skins for their sausages. These are in essence edible plastic. They are very convenient in that you can put a 100 yards spool on a sausage filler and fill it out in seconds with no knots or breaks in the skin. This is fine, but the result is that these skins are very chewy. We use only natural sheep or hog skins. The sheep skins are smaller in diameter and are suitable for thin sausages. The hog skins are suitable for thick, chunky sausages. These skins are only approximately 30 yards long and far more time consuming to separate, use and fill out but are a totally superior product. They also add approximately 50 pence to a pound of sausages. This is a lot of money but I strongly feel that if you are going to make a gourmet product you cannot skimp on any of the ingredients.

I occasionally get asked whether we make our own sausages in the shop. For the record we always have made our own sausages and we always will. If you buy in a product like this you have no control over how it was prepared, the ingredients used and even the hygiene standards of the person making it. Enough said!

This months recipe is a very straightforward and tasty sausage casserole.

Sausage Casserole - Serves 4


4 large potatoes | 4 carrots | 8 good-quality sausages | 2 tbsp olive oil | 1 onion, chopped | 1 garlic clove, crushed | 1 tsp paprika | 400g can chopped tomatoes | 400ml vegetable stock | 1-2 bay leaves


  1. Turn the oven to 180�C/fan160�C/gas 4. Peel the potatoes and carefully cut them in half, then into quarters. Peel the carrots and cut each carrot into about 4 or 5 even pieces.
  2. Prick the sausages all over with a fork � this helps the fat to run out of the sausages, so that they don't split open as they cook. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based casserole and fry the sausages, turning often, until lightly golden all over � this should take about 10 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pan and put them on a plate.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the casserole (there will still be some oil in the pan from the sausages) and continue to cook over a low heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is slightly soft. Add the garlic and paprika and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the chopped potatoes and carrots and stir everything around in the casserole so that the vegetables are coated with the oil.
  5. Add the tomatoes and stock (to measure the stock, you can use the empty tomato can � filled up, it will hold 400ml of stock) and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer (so it's just bubbling gently). Return the sausages to the casserole.
  6. Using your oven gloves, carefully put the casserole into the oven. Cook for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through, and serve.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout May 2013

April 2013 - Spring Lamb

Last month I felt I had to address the subject of "The Horsemeat Scandal" in my Blog. As a result my planned recipe for Easter Spring Lamb has been put back to this month.

Easter this year has come very early and as such at the time of writing I would expect there to be very little Spring Lamb available and for it to be prohibitively expensive for all but the most special occasion. There is a cheaper alternative in English Lamb which is the Hoggett which is a sheep in its first year between December and its first shearing. They are still tender and have plenty of flavour but will have been born well into last year.

Many people are unfamiliar with the different cuts available for roasting. This month I thought I would explain them.

There are three cuts available in Lamb for conventional roasting. They are leg, shoulder and loin. Each have characteristics that may appeal to some more than others.

Firstly, the loin can be boned or sold whole or in part on the bone. Most popular is the "best end of neck" or "rack of Lamb" which is the cutlets in a joint. I would generally chine and French trim this as it can make a superb centre piece for a dinner party if prepared as a "Guard of Honour" or a "Crown Roast". A "Guard of Honour" is a pair of racks with the ribs French trimmed and interlocked like soldiers' swords in a military "Guard of Honour". The "Crown Roast" is a pair of French trimmed racks bent and strung up to form a circle like a crown.

Next is the very traditional leg of lamb depending on how many people you are feeding you could buy a full leg or a half leg. The shank end (or foot end) is very familiar to everyone but the other end which is called a fillet end also makes a lovely joint and is a uniform depth all the way along. The meat is lean and flavoursome.

Lastly, there is the shoulder. This tends to have marbling and more ingrained fat and is the most flavoursome of the joints. It does have a troublesome blade bone to negotiate when carving but this can be removed easily by your butcher to make for simple carving.

All of these joints are suitable for stuffing and marinades as lamb is a meat that lends itself very well to the addition of herbs and seasonings (a few of which are garlic, rosemary, oregano, mint and mustard).

Today's recipe is Anchovy and Mustard Glazed Leg of Lamb (shoulder or loin may be used if preferred).

Anchovy and Mustard Glazed Leg of Lamb - Serves 8

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: Medium 25mins per LB/450g plus 25mins
 Well Done 30mins per LB/450g plus 30mins


1.3kilos/3Lb lean boneless leg of Lamb | 4-5 garlic cloves peeled and cut in slivers | 4 large sprigs of rosemary | Rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling | Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper | 15mils / 1tbsp wholegrain mustard | 4 or 5 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained and finely chopped | Large knob of butter slightly softened | 5mils/1tsp honey


  1. Place your lamb on a chopping board then stud it with the garlic and rosemary. Gently insert the tip of a knife about an inch into the flesh of the lamb then push a sliver of garlic and a couple of rosemary leaves into the hole left behind. The more of these you do the more highly developed the flavour. I would recommend between 10 and 20. The lamb can be prepared up to this point well in advance, even the night before.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4-5/180-190c. Rub the lamb all over with the oil and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, put it on a baking tray in the oven and cook according to how you like your lamb.
  3. Meanwhile blend the mustard, anchovy, butter and honey into a paste. About 25 minutes before the end of the cooking time smear or brush this over the skin of the lamb and return to the oven. When the glaze has taken on a golden brown colour, remove the lamb from the oven, transfer to a large warm plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for 5-10mins somewhere warm before serving.
  4. This dish will be delicious with some roast potatoes, whatever seasonal greens you can lay your hands on and a crunchy radish salad with a light sour cream dressing. Enjoy!

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout April 2013

March 2013 - Food for thought!

Did you hear the one about the horse, the donkey and the ready meals?! This sounds like the beginning of a joke but sadly there is no joke in what has been going on in the food industry. Even the supermarket chains themselves seem unaware how complex their supply chains are and how far they stretch. As far away as Romania horses are making their way into our food chain labelled as beef, via several stops for processing on the way.

The supermarkets are now so large that there are very few processors big enough to deal with their volume. It is no surprise therefore, that when one of these processors breaks the law most of the supermarket chains are implicated.

Personally I have noticed in recent weeks a lot of new faces in my shop. These are people obviously concerned with what is happening in the food industry and are seeking quality and traceability from a local source. As a member of EBLEX (English Beef and Lamb Executive) and part of an audited, monitored system and supply chain I am able to provide fully traceable local food from farm to fork.

As a modern butcher we have moved with the times and are aware of the demand for quality ready meals. We make all our ready meals ourselves daily on our premises using fresh local ingredients. Kevin from "Edens of Handbridge" provides me with fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables which we use in our sausages, burgers and ready meals nicely complimenting our local meat. Supermarkets are unable to do this and their food is produced days in advance in factories (sometimes abroad) using masses of preservatives to enhance shelf-life. Local shops cannot beat the convenience of the "one stop shop" but we can provide top quality, great service and the personal touch, not forgetting great value.

Local shops are the lifeblood of any community and when they are lost there will be no alternative the next time a food scandal breaks. Please use your local shops.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout March 2013

February 2013

In the 1950s a chicken used to be a real luxury meat but has steadily evolved into a staple in a short time. This is mainly to do with mass production techniques, producing a full grown bird in a matter of weeks. Sadly these mass produced birds are not kept in the best conditions, are completely lacking in flavour and all too often are pumped full of water, by supermarkets looking to increase their profit margins.

Quite recently I was asked by a customer why I sold "dinosaur sized chicken breasts"? Puzzled I asked what she meant. She said that the supermarket ones which she had been buying (before converting to a high street butcher) were about a third of the size of mine. I explained that a 7-8oz / 200g chicken breast came off a chicken weighing 4Ib / 1.8kg which is a mature bird and that the supermarket chicken breasts were cut from 2Ib / 1kg birds which were immature and had hardly drawn breath.

The plain truth is that proper quality chicken is available, does still have flavour and lends itself rather well for any number of recipes. It can be affordable and represents good value in the feeding of a family in tough times. For example after cooking a roast chicken don't be afraid the next day to get your fingers greasy and strip every last bit of meat off the carcass. You'll be amazed how much chicken you can find on a seemingly stripped frame. This is all usable meat for sandwiches, bubble and squeak or wherever your imagination takes you.

This month's recipe is for Basque-style Chicken with garlic, bacon, tomatoes and peppers.

Basque-style Chicken with garlic, bacon, tomatoes and peppers - Serves 4

Preparation time: 20 mins Cooking time: 1 hour


4 large chicken portions | 4 tablespoons of olive oil | 6oz/170grams streaky bacon, diced | 4 onions, sliced | 3 garlic cloves, crushed | 2 green peppers, deseeded and diced | 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram | 14oz/420grams tomatoes, skinned and chopped, or 14oz can of tomatoes | 150-300mls / 1/4-1/2 pint chicken stock | Salt and freshly ground black pepper | Parsley to garnish


  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan. Add your diced bacon and saute gently, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
  2. Add the chicken portions to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until they are uniformly brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently until soft and golden. Add the peppers and marjoram, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and some stock (300ml/1/2 pint if you are using fresh tomatoes, or 150ml/1/4 pint if you are using canned tomatoes in juice). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, cover and cook gently for 40-45mins, or until the chicken is cooked and tender.
  4. Remove the chicken and transfer to a serving dish. Boil the sauce gently to reduce if necessary, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning and pour over the chicken, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Delicious served with rice.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout February 2013

January 2013 - Happy New Year!

Half the country are presently fighting expanding waistlines and contracting wallets. Its probably true to say that most of us are a bit bored of all the rich Christmassy food and are ready to get back to basics.

I have to admit that sometimes a plate of egg and chips does the job nicely but won't keep the cold out on a bitterly cold January evening. For such an occasion the "Ham Shank" comes into its own. At approximately �1 per 1Ib it really is a great value meal for all the family. Today's recipe is "Braised Ham Shank with seasonal root vegetables".

The Ham Shank is cured pork shin, so it has plenty of flavour and requires long slow cooking. Very little preparation time is needed but a few hours gently simmering will produce great results. This meal is twice as good a value because a second meal of Pea and Ham Soup can be created in minutes at minimal cost for the following day or can be frozen for another time.

Braised Ham Shank with seasonal root vegetables - Serves 4

Cooking time: 3 hours


Ham Shank - approximately 2.5 - 3Ib (1.135-1.365kg) | Carrots - 4 medium roughly chopped | Celery Sticks - 2 roughly chopped | 1 Large Onion roughly chopped | 2 Bay Leaves

Cooking Tip: Soak your Ham Shank in a large saucepan of cold water for approximately one hour to remove excess salt.


  1. Add your celery, carrot, onion and bay leaves and Ham Shank to a large saucepan. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer.
  2. Cover and cook until the shank is falling of the bone (approximately 3 hours).
  3. After 3 hours gently remove the skin from the Shank and strip the meat from the bone with a fork.

Serve with new potatoes and steamed cabbage with plenty of black pepper to taste.

Pea and Ham Soup

The next day any leftovers can be turned into a delicious and nutritious soup. If you have used up the stock from your first meal then simply use a vegetable stock cube.

Add the stock to a large saucepan and then add 500grams of frozen garden peas and a clove of freshly crushed garlic. Bring this to the boil until the peas are cooked. Then add all your remaining original meal to the saucepan and blend in a food processor. Return to the pan and reheat gently. Serve with plenty of crusty bread and thick butter. Delicious!

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout January 2013

December 2012 - A Christmas feast

Well, December has finally arrived. We've all been living with the hype for months and now the main event is almost upon us.

It is true to say that December is a great butchers trading month but it comes hand in hand with long hours and more than its fair share of stress. No-one will forgive a forgotten order or a disappointing Christmas Dinner, so it is important to be on the ball.

Families no longer seem to eat together as often as they might but I am glad to say that Christmas Dinner seems to be the exception. Choosing the right meat for the occasion is most important. If you want to go 'Cold Turkey' on Turkey this year then a 28 day aged joint of Ribeye of Beef, Sirloin or Rib on the Bone are as good as it gets! Throw into the equation a great traditional breed such as Hereford or Aberdeen Angus and all the onus falls on the chef!

For me personally I love my beef cooked rare to medium. For those families who are split in liking rare and well done beef you can help please everyone by starting your beef at a higher temperature to begin with and then reducing it to an even temperature for the remainder of cooking time. This gives ends which are more well done and medium to rare in the centre.

This month's recipe is for Roast Ribeye of Beef with Chestnut and Chive Butter, Caramelised Parsnips and Leeks. Enjoy!

Roast Ribeye of Beef with Chestnut and Chive Butter, Caramelised Parsnips and Leeks - Serves: 6-8

Cooking Time per 450g/1Ib:

Rare - 20 mins plus 20 mins / Medium - 25 mins plus 25 mins / Well done - 30 mins plus 30 mins


1.3kg-1.8kg / 3-4Ibs Ribeye of Beef (Sirloin or Rib on the Bone can be substituted) | 75g/3oz unsalted butter, softened | 75g/3oz canned, unsweetened chestnut puree | Grated zest of 2 oranges | 5ml/1tsp ground cinnamon | 30ml/2tbsp freshly chopped chives | Salt and freshly milled black pepper | 900g/2Ib leeks, topped, tailed and cut in half lengthways | 900g/2Ib medium parsnips, peeled and cut in half lengthways | 60ml/4tbsp sherry vinegar

For the red wine gravy:
25g/1oz plain or sauce flour | 450ml/three quaters pint good, hot beef stock | 300ml/half pint full bodied red wine


  1. Preheat oven to Gas mark 4-5, 180-190c
  2. Prepare the chestnut and chive butter; in a small bowl mix together the butter, chestnut puree, orange zest, cinnamon and chives.
  3. Place the joint on a chopping board, score the skin, season on both sides and spread generously with the chestnut butter.
  4. Transfer the joint to a metal rack in a large non-stick roasting tin and open roast for the preferred, calculated cooking time, basting occasionally with any meat juices. Cover with foil if browning too quickly.
  5. 45 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the joint and rack from the tin, add the parsnips and leeks to the tin with the sherry vinegar and gently shake. Place the joint directly on top of the vegetables, and return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time.
  6. Remove the joint from the tin with the vegetables and transfer to a warmed platter. Cover and set aside to rest.
  7. Prepare the gravy; spoon off any excess fat from the roasting tin and discard. Place the tin over a medium heat and sprinkle over the flour. Stir well with a small whisk or spoon, add a little stock and stir again, scraping the base of the pan to release any rich, beefy sediment.
  8. Add the remaining stock, wine and any meat juices from the platter, adjust the seasoning if required and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until reduced to a well-flavoured gravy. Strain before serving.
  9. Serve with potatoes, the caramelised vegetables and the gravy.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout December 2012

November 2012 - A winter warmer

The evenings have drawn in and Autumn is drawing to Winter. On a cold wet day, in a butchers shop with no heating, that often means that I will spend all day long thinking about the culinary delights of the evening to come. "Comfort Food", or as my Grandmother used to call it "stick to your ribs food", is something we are all familiar with.

This months recipe is for Lamb Shanks in Red Wine, Garlic and Herbs.

The humble Lamb Shank is one of the great delicacies of lamb and is often the first part of every carcass to sell. The Lamb Shank is the shin of lamb on the bone and can be taken from the leg or shoulder. They are a relatively new phenomena in butchering terms as until approximately ten years ago lamb legs and shoulders were mainly sold whole or in half as a roasting joint. The shoulders were occasionally sliced through as shoulder steaks on the bone or "middle neck" but the way the lambs are cut today is largely different. Shoulders are now diced, minced, boned, steaked and marinated to a modern consumers requirements.

This months recipe contains a bottle of red wine which makes for a very comforting meal! One of my customers recently said "A bottle of red is all you need; half a bottle in the cooking and half a bottle while its cooking!" (so you'd best get extra in!) . . . Enjoy!

Lamb Shanks in Red Wine, Garlic and Herbs - Serves 4


Lamb - 4 Lamb shanks | Olive Oil - just enough to cover the bottom of your roasting tray | Flour - a little for dusting | Onions - 4 medium sized

For the marinade:

A bottle of red wine | 3 tbsp sherry vinegar | Garlic - 2 whole heads | Thyme - a small bunch | Bay leaves - 3 | Black peppercorns - 8


  1. Put the lamb in a roasting tray and add the wine, sherry vinegar, the garlic heads cut horizontally, the herbs and their branches and the peppercorns. Leave this to marinate for 3 hours or overnight if possible to imbue flavour to the meat.
  2. Heat your oven to 200C/Gas 6. Cover the bottom of your roasting tray with oil and heat over two gas burners/hobs. Remove your shanks from the marinade, dust them lightly with flour and lay them in the hot oil. Turn them to brown evenly and then remove them.
  3. While the lamb is browning, peel and roughly chop the onions, then, when you have removed the lamb (and added more oil if necessary), let them soften slowly in the roasting tray, stirring them occasionally to stop them burning but not so regularly that they fail to caramelise and soften.
  4. Return the shanks to the roasting tray, pour over the marinade, tucking the herbs underneath the lamb, then cover with foil and place in the oven for approx 2 hours until tender. The wine and onions should have thickened to a rough sauce which you can season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Best served with a good dollop of mash.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout November 2012

October 2012 - Game is back on the menu

One of the lovely things about British food are the Seasons. Eating fresh produce in season always seems to taste better and with a game season closed since February there is much to look forward to. All our wonderful game birds, rabbits and venison are now on the menu.

The new game season is now underway and one of the true delights of Autumn is our increasingly popular local venison. Superb quality, sourced little more than one mile from the Overleigh Roundabout!

Venison is high in protein, low in fat and has fewer calories than other red meats. Venison is particularly low in saturated fatty acids and contains higher iron levels than other meats.

Summed up, it is an excellent meat which ticks all the boxes and is available from the beginning of October to the end of January. One of my favourite recipes is Venison Casserole with Beer. Enjoy!

Venison Casserole with Beer � Serves 4


900g diced venison shoulder | 2 tbsp oil | 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped | 150g piece smoked streaky bacon or pancetta diced | 1 tbsp plain flour| 300ml beef or venison stock | 300ml brown ale | 2 tsp soft light brown sugar | 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed | 1-2 bay leaves | 2 sprigs of thyme | roasted baby carrots to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 130C/Gas Mark 2. Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry the venison in batches for 5-6 mins until browned on all sides, adding a little extra oil as necessary. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon to leave the juices.
  2. Add onions to the casserole and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring occcasionally until lightly browned, add the bacon and fry for a further 2 minutes. Return all the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the garlic then stir in the flour. Gradually stir in the stock and ale, scraping up any juices stuck to the bottom of the pan. Heat, stirring until simmering.
  3. Add in the sugar, bay leaves and thyme and season with freshly ground black pepper. Cover the casserole with a tight fitting lid or foil and cook in the oven for at least 2 hours or until the meat is tender. Serve with roasted baby carrots.

This article first appeared in the Overleigh Roundabout October 2012